16 March 2016

Why should a Greek minister have to resign for using the word “Macedonia”?


One might have thought commentators from the rest of Europe who had followed Greece’s euro and migration crises and the machinations of the Syriza government might by now know just about all there is to know about Greek politics. But some issues which are big in Greece still blindside them.

Thus, today, many commentators have expressed utter bemusement at the idea that Greece migration minister Yannis Mouzalas might have to resign over using the term “Macedonia” to refer to the country north of Greece that many of us still refer to as “FYROM” (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) and that many Greeks refer to as “Skopje” (after its capital). “How can this be seen as an important issue?” they ask.

Well, let’s try to help out with an analogy. Suppose that the area comprised of Cornwall and Devon is referred by in Britain as “Malvinas” and that part of the Argentine opposition party said Argentina had a territorial claim over Cornwall and Devon which was a key reason for using the term “Malvinas” to refer to the Falklands. Suppose that for Britons who lived in Cornwall and Devon, this were one of the top two or three political hot issues. Also let’s suppose that the “Malvinas” issue were a sensitive one for the Conservative Party because in the past the party had favoured “Malvinas” independence.

Then, suppose that the UK defence minister Michael Fallon were talking about the Falkland Islands in a public interview, and he referred to them as the “Malvinas”. Do you think he might have to resign?

I can’t help feeling he would. And once you grasp why, it may seem less mysterious to you that the Greek migration minister might have to resign over referring to FYROM/Skopje as “Macedonia”.

Andrew Lilico is Chairman of Europe Economics.